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  Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

The Lady in Blue

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
For longer than anyone can remember, the story of “the lady in blue” has existed on the fringes of East Texas history and religion.

It supposedly began around 1639 when fifty members of the Jumano Indian tribe came to Mission Corpus Christi de la Isleta south of El Paso and asked for instructions in the Catholic faith.

When the astonished padres asked the Indians what motivated them to come to Isleta, they said their people living in East Texas had been visited by a beautiful lady who always wore a blue habit and taught them religion in their own language. The lady in blue, they said, urged them to search out missionaries to hear the word of God and be baptized.

At the time, Isleta and another mission, Nuestra Senora de Socorro, were originally in Mexico, but a change in the course of the Rio Grande River placed them on Texas soil.

Through his work, Father Alfonso de Benavides learned that Mother Maria de Jesus de Agreda, a cloistered abbess who lived in Spain, was the lady in blue.

Often consulted by King Phillip IV, Mother Maria said she visited the new world in a manner known as “bi-location,” a phenomena that allows one individual to appear personally in two places at the same time.

How did she visit the Indians of Mexico and Texas?

While praying for the welfare of the Indians, she often fell into a trance and was taken by God, without her awareness, to a different place where Indians lived. She said she saw the Indians, heard them speak and felt the difference in the climate of the land.

While in this state, God commanded her to speak and preach to the Indians. It seemed to her that she was speaking in her Spanish tongue, but the Indians understood her as if she were speaking in their language.

Mother Maria saw and heard everything with clearness, and when the trance ended, she found herself in the same place where she lost consciousness.

From 1621 to 1631, she is said to have visited Indians frequently in Mexico and East Texas. Her visits may have numbered as many as five hundred.

The Jumano Indians, who first reported the lady in blue, were in many parts of Texas in the l600s. In October of 1683, chief Sabeata and six other Jumano leaders visited the Spanish at El Paso and told them a compelling story of how there were thirty-three Indian nations begging to learn of Christianity.

Sabeata also told how a cross had appeared in the sky during a battle with Apache Indians and guided the Jumanos to victory. The Jumanos pointed the Spanish toward East Texas and the great kingdom of the Hasinai Caddo Indians. And when Franciscan priests came to East Texas to establish missions in the l690s, the Hasinai (also known as the Tejas) Indians reported seeing the lady in blue.

The last reported appearance of the lady in blue was in the 1840s when a mysterious young woman wearing a long blue dress came into the homes of families stricken by a “black tongue” epidemic at old Sabinetown on the Sabine River.

She remained in the community for days, brewing a tea from forest herbs, tending to the ill, weeping over the dead, and never sleeping. When the epidemic ran its course, she disappeared as mysteriously as she appeared.
All Things Historical >
May 1, 2005 Column
Published with permission
(Distributed as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman is a former president of the Association and the author of 30 books on East Texas.)
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